Listening To Students Read


Reading aloud is difficult. Readers have to be able to do three things at once:
1. Use their eyes to decode the words and symbols.
2. Use their mouths to speak the words and indicate the symbols.
3. Use their ears to hear whether what they said makes sense.
Their eyes go ahead, their mouths speak in the present, and their ears go back in time. Three time zones at once!  No wonder reading aloud is such a difficult skill. No wonder even adults get nervous when asked to read aloud.
When students make mistakes and correct themselves, we know that they’ve mastered the skill of listening to themselves. Even if the word said is not exactly correct, if the meaning of the text is not altered, the error is not considered serious.
But what if the meaning of the text is affected?  What if the mistakes change the meaning of the passage?  Then we have to discover where the problem lies.  There are three main categories of mistakes:

1. Visual   

    • e.g. incorrect letters change the meaning of the word
• especially common with letters at the beginning or end of a word
• tip: ask, “Does that look right?”
• tip: ask students to use their eyes to read each word more carefully

2. Structural (syntax or grammar)

    • e.g. incorrect word endings or incorrect forms of verbs
• especially common with students new to the English language
• tip: ask, “Does that sound right?”
• tip: teach students a mini-grammar lesson

3. Semantic

    • ie. what is read doesn’t make any sense, is illogical or doesn’t match
what the student should already know about the story
• especially common with students who don’t relate or connect to what
they are reading
• tip: ask, “Does that make sense?”
• tip: start a reading session by talking about the topic so that the
student starts thinking about what they decode

Teachers use running records to record and organize the types of mistakes students make while reading aloud.

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]


Changes Words

– changes the first letter of the word
– changes the middle consonants in the word
– drops or changes the end of the word
– changes the vowel sound
– “Get your mouth ready.”
– “Look at the first letter of the word.”
– “Do you know a word that starts with that letter?”
– “What is the ending of that word?  Now try again from the beginning.”

Changes Sentences

 – leaps over words
– adds words and passage no longer makes sense
– adds words and passage still makes sense
– substitutes words but the passage still makes sense
– ask, “Does that make sense?”
– “You missed a word in that sentence. Can you try it again?”
– “Try that again and think about what would make sense.”

Changes the Symbols

– ignores commas
– ignores periods
– ignores paragraphs
(Note that each symbol requires a progressively longer pause.)
– “There’s a symbol that indicates a pause. Where is it?”

Doesn’t Send Eyes ahead of Mouth

 – reads abruptly
– doesn’t group words into phrases
– doesn’t emphasize key words
– doesn’t match mood of words with tone of voice
– “Can you send your eyes ahead of your mouth and look for . . . ?”

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]



1. Read the whole word. Don’t guess after seeing the first few letters.

2. Break longer words down into parts. Use what you have learned about root words, prefixes and suffixes.

3. When you stop to figure out a word, go back after you’ve figured it out and start the sentence again. If you have to stop frequently, go back and start the paragraph again.

4. Listen to what you are saying aloud. If something doesn’t make sense, go back and find the problem.

5. Read slowly enough that your audience can easily follow and comprehend.


1. Send your eyes ahead of your mouth, so you know what is coming.

2. Observe the punctuation. Make your voice show the punctuation.

3. When your eyes go ahead, pick key words to emphasize with your mouth. The words you choose affect what your listeners will remember.

4. When your eyes go ahead, group words together to make phrases. Doing that makes it easier for your listeners to understand you.

5. When your eyes go ahead, watch for clues that tell you what tone of voice ot use. The mood you portray will affect what your listeners think and feel about the characters and the situation in the text.

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]


You won’t ask every question at every session!
But over time, all the concepts should be covered.



Spend about five minutes talking about the book.

1. Look at the cover.
– What is the title?
– What clues are there as to the topic of the book?
– Do you know anything about this topic?
– Have you ever read a similar book?

2. Look at the back of the book and inside the dust cover.
– Can you find any information about the author?
(It’s important for students to learn to check the credentials of an
author before using a source of information.)
– Do you think it’s reasonable to expect good writing from this author?
– What is the main idea of this book?

3. Look at the title page and back of the title page (the verso).
– Where was this book made? What does that tell us about the book?
(A book published in Britain might have a different vocabulary.)
– What company published this book?
– When was this book published?  What is the copyright date?
– What does the copyright date tell you about what you’re going to read?
(An older book might have some out-of-date information. or portray
a different culture than one familiar to students.)

4. Page through the book and note the style.
– Is this book meant to read from beginning to end or is it a book that
can be read in bits and pieces here and there?
– Is it a textbook with an index?  Is it a novel?
– Are there any illustrations that you’ll need to look at for extra

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]


Spend about 15 to 20  minutes on this part of the session.

1. Regularly stop and review what has been read.
– What was the main idea?
– Are there any clues that tell us what is coming ahead?
– What do we know about the characters?
– What sensory details are used?
– What figures of speech are used?

2. Show that new paragraphs start for various reasons.
– Is there a new paragraph because there’s a new idea?
– Is there a new paragraph because there’s a leap in time?
– Is there a new paragraph because there’s a change in location?
– Is there a new paragraph because there’s a new speaker?

3. Stop and compare mental pictures.
– What do you think the facial expression would be on that character?
– What would it feel like to be in that scene?
– Where do you imagine yourself in connection to the action? Are you
standing far away and watching or are you right close by?

4. Stop and jot down any unknown words.
– Can you tell what the word might mean from the meaning of the sentence?

5. Stop and make predictions.
– What do you think will happen next?  What is your evidence?


Spend about 5  minutes reviewing and reflecting.

1. Discuss the emotions portrayed.
2. Review the main events.
3. Notice any powerful words or figures of speech.
4. Compare the passage to any other books read or life experiences.
5. Go back and check any parts that are unclear.
6. Give clues as to what will happen the next time you read together.

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]


Name ________________________   Div. ____________

    Date: _______________
Title: _____________________________________
Pages read: _____________
Details noticed about the reading:
Needed help with these words:
Overall, I think that . . .

    Date: _______________
Title: _____________________________________
Pages read: _____________
Details noticed about the reading:
Needed help with these words:
Overall, I think that . . .

    Date: _______________
Title: _____________________________________
Pages read: _____________
Details noticed about the reading:
Needed help with these words:
Overall, I think that . . .

[©2007 Sophie Rosen.]

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